David Butler's third poetry collection, Liffey Sequence, was published in 2021 – the same year as his second short story collection, Fugitive. His novel, City of Dis, was shortlisted for Irish Novel of the Year 2015.
Now we are wintering – the whole hive stupefied
to silence, each in their cell who isn’t soldiering,
an inmate of a new Shalott – the cities, simulacra:
drone-shot piazzas; enchanted palaces; empty
trainset trains; vistas dreamed by de Chirico;
traffic lights sequencing the memory of traffic –
confined while, ineluctably, somewhere else,
the toll, the toll, until we’re numbed by
the scale of it; each week, the heat and bustle
more distant, more unlikely; nothing to feed
but waxing apprehension: what will eclose
this long cocooning, and on what tentative wings?
And then the sun
A sea of jade and muscatel; the sky, gun-metal.
Landward, the storm-portending birds, white-lit,
Riding wild contours of wind, uplift
To tilt at the raucous crows. This
Is how it is to live, the ticker tells,
Looping the floor of the newsfeed.
Somewhere, an outrage; an airstrike;
Somewhere, a politic withdrawal. This
Is how it is to live: the wind blowing
The charcoal of crows’ feathers;
The rent in the clouds; oblique tines beating
Sudden ochre out of a sullen ocean.
These Are Not Days
These are not days, they are shadows
flitting over the too-familiar ground,
dry and rubble strewn,
where our choices are buried.
These are not days, these shades,
tremulous, mere changes of light.
Quiet as thieves, as witnesses,
they slip past in silent legion.
Count them up, and they come to years,
but years empty of substance.
They are the dry husks of our lives,
the whisper inside the hourglass.
Days are not the coinage of will,
as once we imagined.
One day they rise like locusts,
to devour us.
Distancing / These Are Not Days: Liffey Sequence (Doire Press)
And then the sun broke through: All the Barbaric Glass